June 25, 2020

Missouri Senate Bill 491

June 25, 2020
Missouri Sneate Bill 491 took decriminalization one step further in the Show-Me-State.

Missouri is now a legal medical marijuana state, but six years ago in 2014, the Missouri legislature was able to pass SB 491 a modified, uniform criminal code law that significantly reduced the legal consequences for possession of marijuana for non-medical use. Judges, legislators, and attorneys had worked eight years to develop the measure, and other recent changes to Missouri law have permitted certified medical marijuana patients to purchase, home cultivate, and consume medical marijuana. Find out how Missouri SB 491 played a crucial role in the “Show-Me-State’s” move towards decriminalization.

What Does Missouri Senate Bill 491 Mean To Me?

Missouri SB 491 increased marijuana decriminalization efforts in Missouri

Missouri Senate Bill 491 was passed on May 13th, 2014. The purpose? Modifying the Missouri criminal code to update the standards for what constitutes a marjuana possession crime. This long outdated bill hadn’t been touched since 1979 and many in the legislature found it was in need of reforming. 

Back in 2010, almost 19,000 arrests were made for marijuana possession offenses, in the state of Missorui alone. Anyone caught with any amount of marijuana was subjected to arrest, fines, and time in jail. . However, this bill purported a glimpse of progress into the decriminalization of marijuana throughout the state, and even the entire nation. 

What Was the Outcome of the Vote on Missouri SB491 in the House and Senate?

The House members approved this legislation by a 140-15 vote and the Senate voted 29-2 for this reform measure. Governor Jay Nixon allowed the bill to become law without his signature noting several “drafting” errors, however on January 1, 2017, all updated provisions were enacted. 

What Changes Did SB 491 Make to Missouri Law?

Lawmakers enacting SB 491 established reduced penalties for those possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana. A first offense became punishable as a class D misdemeanor (an infraction) and would carry a fine of $250-$1,000 with no jail time.

Cultivating 35 grams or less is a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000. Cultivating 35 grams or more is a Class C felony, which is punishable by a sentence of three to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

What Did People Think of Missouri SB491?

While SB491 replaced the prior penalty of up to a year of incarceration and a fine, a  conviction will still show up on the defendant’s record. Some critics rightly claim that this is not, in fact, decriminalization and should not detract from the broader aims at full-scale decriminalization of marijuana.

However, many were quick to champion this as a bold step forward for Missouri drug reform: “Thanks to the dynamic leadership and statesmanship of Sen. Justus, Rep. Cox and Sen. Bob Dixon, this seven-year effort to revise Missouri’s criminal code is just one-step away from the finish line,” said Missouri Bar President Jack Brady of Kansas City. “This update and reorganization of Missouri’s Criminal Code will make us safer, create an even fairer system and make better use of taxpayer funds. ”

The Future of Decriminalization Law in Missouri

Missouri was on track to legalize recreational marijuana this year. There was very strong support for the Missourians for a New Approach initiative, and it likely would have qualified for the ballot and passed were it not for the pandemic. The ballot measure included language that would have completely decriminalized the adult possession of marijuana and would have allowed for expungement of non-violent marijuana possession charges.

Efforts are already underway for gathering signatures for the November 2022 push to once again attempt to legalize recreational marijuana and overhaul decades old drug war policy.

Additional Reading on Missouri Cannabis Law and Medical Program

You can find a variety of information on The Weed Blog, from reviews of certain top strains of cannabis, to enthusiasts who know the best video games to play while blazing a joint! We are committed to relaying valuable information to you and recommend you consider these other top tier articles regarding cannabis in Missouri!

Is CBD Legal in Missouri? (The Weed Blog)

How to Get Your Medical Card in Missouri (The Weed Blog)

Missouri Amendment 2 (The Weed Blog)


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